Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Outgoing legislators recommend big increase in school funding, but chair declared meeting adjourned

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

In a parting shot, a majority of a legislative committee Tuesday recommended an increase in school funding, but not before the chairman declared the meeting adjourned.

At the end of the Legislative Educational Planning Committee, Sen. John Vratil, R-Leawood, started to make a motion to increase school funding to $4,492 in base state aid per student. Such an increase would cost $440 million.

But Committee Chairman Steve Huebert, R-Valley Center, cut Vratil off, saying the meeting was adjourned and walked out. Two other members, Reps. Mitch Holmes, R-St. John, and Ronald Ryckman, R-Meade, went with him.

But Vratil and the remaining members voted on his motion, approving it 7-0. Of those seven, five won't be returning to the Legislature when their terms expire next month.

The only two voting for the motion who will remain in the Legislature are Sen. Marci Francisco and Rep. Barbara Ballard, both Lawrence Democrats.

In 2006, as part of a three-year school funding plan, the Kansas Legislature had approved an increase in school funding that was to hit $4,492 in base state aid per student in the 2009-10 school year.

But before that level was reached, the Legislature started cutting base state aid as Kansas hit the recession.

Now base state aid is $3,838 per student. Vratil's motion was to return funding to the level the state had promised earlier.

Vratil is retiring from the Legislature. Also voting for the motion were Sens. Jean Schodorf, R-Wichita, Ruth Teichman, R-Stafford, and Bob Marshall, R-Fort Scott.

Those three were defeated by more conservative Republicans in the GOP primary in August. Rep. Eber Phelps, D-Hays, also voted for the motion. He was defeated in last month's general election.